Africa could get a partial vaccine against malaria by October if the final trail by British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline goes to plan and get approved by international regulators.
The vaccine, which has been in development for over two decades and has cost more than $500 million so far, could save up to 660,000 people, mostly children in poor countries across Africa and other developing regions, who die every year from the mosquito-spread disease.
According to the Lancet medical journal, the latest trial results of the RTS,S inoculation showed that the vaccine works better in children from the age of five months than it does in younger babies, meaning it may not be included in the usual infant vaccination schedule.
It protection against malaria also wanes over time and can only last about four years.
“Despite the falling efficacy over time, there is still a clear benefit from RTS,S,” Brian Greenwood, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who worked on the study, was quoted by Reuters saying.
“Given that there were an estimated 198 million malaria cases in 2013, this level of efficacy potentially translates into millions of cases of malaria in children being prevented,” he added.
RTS,S will be an additional boost to the arsenal health experts have used over the years to try and contain the diseases. Some of the methods used to prevent and treat malaria in Africa include insecticide-treated bednets, rapid diagnostic tests and anti-malarial drugs.
Experts says the implementation phase of the vaccine might need some donor funding, especially in Africa where government might not be able to bear the cost once it is approved and ready for use.
“There are still a number of considerations and approval processes to be undertaken, but it has the potential to be an important additional tool to fight malaria and save lives from a disease that kills a child every minute.” James Whiting, from the charity Malaria No More UK, told the BBC.